"Widow's Point" Book Review
Written by Tony Jones
Published by Cemetery Dance Publications
Written by Richard Chizmar and Billy Chizmar
2018, 156 pages, Fiction
Released on February 28th, 2018
Cemetery Dance Publications has another winner on its hands with Widow’s Point, a supernatural tale of a haunted lighthouse co-written by father and son team Richard and Billy Chizmar. The world of horror fiction is never short of an old-fashioned haunting, but the Chizmars’ spin on this age-old story is fresh, clever and creepy enough to make this 150-page novella, punctuated with atmospheric drawings by Glenn Chadbourne, well worth reading.
For decades, tales of weird disappearances, suicide and murder have been linked to the lighthouse at Harper’s Cove to the extent that locals give it a wide berth and it attracts nothing but loonies, the curious and ghost hunters to its dangerous ragged Canadian cliff tops. The novella picks up the story when the lighthouse has been empty for thirty years, and is now fenced off from the public with its latest temporary occupant just about to move in. Thomas Livingston is a bestselling author who investigates supernatural occurrences, and in the search for his next big hit negotiates a brief three-night stay in the lighthouse whilst he documents what he experiences. Hopefully something spooky. Armed with only a video camera and audio recorder, Thomas can see gold at the end of the rainbow if only he can survive until Monday, when the owner will return and unlock the lighthouse. Of course, this is a horror novel, so things are obviously going to go bump in the night spin out of control very quickly for poor Thomas, but the question is how?
As soon as Thomas enters the lighthouse, the video recorder packs in, not a good first sign, but continues to work everywhere else in the local vicinity. However, for the reader this is very handy, as it means the story is told via the transcripts of the audio recordings, which is the only function still working on the camera. This was a rather different way of telling a haunted house story, effectively coming across as the equivalent of a found footage horror film beginning Friday 10.14am July 11, 2017, and ending Sunday, July 13 (time unknown). As Thomas’s mobile phone does not work either, he has no way of contacting the outside world and so his point of view from within the lighthouse is the sole narrative. Decide for yourself whether he is an unreliable narrator, a charlatan, a genuine believer in ghosts, or someone truly out of his depth, or a combination of the above.
As Thomas explores the lighthouse and its many nooks and crannies, he records his experiences, and at length recounts the history of the lighthouse and the many supposed supernatural occurrences associated with it, which form an important part of the narrative. Combine these revelations with the strange occurrences in the lighthouse, the atmosphere is really ratcheted up as reality really begins to distort. For example, all of his bottled water turns to salt water and his food mysteriously is filled with maggots. The different timelines ease together naturally, creating haunting reading experience of visions, unsettling noises and childish laughter.
The reader must fill in many of the gaps, as the transcript can only answer so many questions and that is part of the fun. Neither could I make up my mind whether Thomas really believes in the supernatural, as after all, he does intend to sell his tale and has his own agenda when he enters the lighthouse, which he is not necessarily going to share with us, the readers. Ultimately the reader must decide whether to trust him or not and the recordings he has left behind, which is another entertaining aspect of this quality novella.
Richard and Billy Chizmar have created a highly effective ghost story which even the most jaded supernatural freaks will happily enjoy spending a few hours in the company of. I won’t forget the spiral staircase which links the bottom of the lighthouse with the living quarters at the top, which go on, and on, and on, and on, and on…. Terrific stuff.